May 25, 2016

Humor in general not in general

A few days ago I rediscovered an old DVD I wrote with various backup files. Making movies also comes with the usual paranoia of “Oh my God, what if the computer blows up?”

Scanning through them out of curiosity, I stumbled upon a text file. Not a word document but a single text file, its filename being “goodjoke.txt”.

Intrigued as to why I would go through the trouble of saving a joke in a text file, I opened it, only to fine the words “Ha Ha Ha!” written inside, with nothing else. I snickered at the silly way in which past-me fooled present-me.

It was a puerile, “good joke” that got the reaction of laughter out of me. Well, a snicker, still – it was effective. Humor is a wonderful thing, it lifts our spirits and spawns across nations, with no borders or bumps in the road. Humor, in general, is good.

Kitty Cat Laughing

In general

Humor is represented by the way in which we interpret situations, laughter being our brain’s reaction to something pleasant and unexpected. Scientifically speaking, it is the release of a built up “energy” that has nowhere else to go. Really, look it up, that’s our best explanation to date.

Still, everybody knows that everybody laughs at different things. This ain’t no science lesson, it’s fairly known that personal upbringing shapes the humor. My parents, for example, are divorced. My brother and I have been raised by our mother, with the help of our grandparents. The humor we adopted was, naturally, taken from them with a mixture of the humor presented in the TV shows we used to watch.

Continuing the example, my father was never really interested in my upbringing unless I followed in his “footsteps”. He’s an IT guy and, no matter how much I showed him that there’s a lot of IT in movie-making, he never liked or appreciated my work stating that “if it’s not website-making, it’s not good”. What further estranged us was the fact that his humor is often slightly vulgar and sexualized – there’s nothing wrong with that, just not my type – while mine was more “old fashioned”.

He never could understand why I laughed at Monty Python, but he always appreciated when Benny Hill would feature sexual jokes and women in skimpy skirts. While I can enjoy the presence of a beautiful woman, I never found it funny to reduce her to an “object” – even for the sake of comedy.

Now the question here would be… is one type of humor better than the other? I would firmly say “no”. The humor of a person does not dictate that person’s overall quality, nor does it rule that person’s choices. Sure, it may offer some insight regarding the emotional development, but that’s a discussion that’s long and boring and for another time.

So then… NOT in general

Yes, humor can’t really be discussed from a general point of view. There are some elements which apply to most people (for example, most people like to laugh) but that’s where similarities end.

Humor can bring people together. Humor can set them apart. It is by and through humor that we find friends, we hold onto relationships and this, doubled by loyalty and trust, can make human interaction a very, very strong element in our lives.

All the same, humor can bring entire nations to war. This is not an exaggeration and one must only look at the events of recent years. Let’s not go there, not now at least.

Not only that but humor can be contagious, at least momentarily. No, not laughter, humor. Someone who is not very funny on his own might appear hilarious to a public. If you take stand up comedians and make an effort of watching their show completely ignoring the crowd (if you can), you’ll find that some of their jokes don’t really hit home – their performance is enhanced by the temporarily contagious humor in the crowd.

Crowd Laughing

Humor is the filter that leads to us laughing or not at a certain element. The subconscious need to belong in a crowd, colliding with the need to laugh, will act like a catalyst towards us “adopting” the crowd’s humor and therefore laughing at jokes that wouldn’t make us laugh on our own.

I went to bad movies where people in the audience laughed at scenes which I found unfunny. I went to good movies where due to the reduced number of people in the theatre, scenes that were clearly meant to make you laugh just didn’t get the best response.

When we screened the LOTR Parody at our local cinema, we accidentally turned the volume up a bit too high. This resulted in people not hearing the reactions of the rest of the theatre, thus thinking that they’re laughing by themselves. I’ve been asked at the end of the show “Why didn’t anyone else laughed, it was hilarious!” – because they couldn’t hear each other over the movie’s sound, thus most jokes had less of an impact.

Still, as an accidental experiment, it was extremely interesting, because the jokes that DID get a roaring laughter out of the crowd were tagged as the best, since the crowd’s laughter managed to cover the movie’s sound. Heh, lesson learned and, at the same time, precious info gained from the situation!

Jesus Jokes (well, some say he did)

John Cleese, co-author of the “Parrot Sketch” by Monty Python, recently talked about political correctness and how it can kill humor. He states that humor is at its core a critique addressed to someone. When one nullifies the right to this critique, for the sake of political correctness, one risks of dimming down the quality of our already not-quite-perfect lives.

You see it all around you – people getting offended, people suing other people… Sure, if someone is rude to you, don’t be stupid, just get out of there. Still, when someone has a bit of a laugh, a sincere, not ill-spirited laugh on your account, why reply with a destructive force?

A smart man once said: “You cannot be insulted if you don’t let anyone insult you.” This is true on so many levels. For those Bible thumpers out there (who are probably amongst the most insultable people in the world) – it’s even in the Bible >> “Turn the other cheek.”

Did you know that there are some writings, among the Dead Sea Scrolls and Lost Gospels that feature accounts of Jesus laughing? Yes, according to those writings, Jesus used to laugh. Quite a lot actually.

I’m not saying those writings are true, but the idea itself is fantastic. I mean, think about it, really think about it… Doesn’t it seem natural? Doesn’t it seem like it would fit in the Bible’s story? Laughing is what connects us at a very deep level. It’s what makes us human.

Jumping quite a lot from one subject to another, we are usually limited by what the Mass Media wants us to see and to learn. I am not a supporter of the following people, but I merely want to offer you guys the chance to see yet another layer of our topic. Political power comes with a certain image that must be maintained and humanizing that image was considered wrong throughout history.

Hitler Stalin laughing smiling

Stalin… Hitler… they are seen as the bad guys of history, and with good reason. The saddest part of this isn’t what they did, but the fact that they were human, they had needs and desires, they laughed and smiled. Imagine such powerful men on the side of good, imagine if they would’ve been happy throughout their lives, if they could’ve used their talents to do something amazingly good.

Humor is important, whether you take it in general or subjectively, it can bring out the best in us all. Losing something like this would make this world a sad, sad place to live. And that’s no laughing matter.


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